On average, radio delivers 93% of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks, according to [download page] a December 2011 study conducted by Arbitron, Media Monitors, and Coleman Insights. Data from “What Happens When the Spots Come On: 2011” indicates that when comparing the average minute audience during commercial breaks to the audience for the minute before the commercials began, the audience delivery during breaks of 1 to 3 minutes in duration are nearly the same as the lead-in audience (100%, 99%, and 96%, respectively). Radio also show strong performance during longer breaks: the audience levels during 4-minute breaks was 92% of the lead-in audience, 87% of the lead-in audience during 5-minute breaks, and 85% of the lead-in audience during breaks of 6 or more minutes.
On a 24-hour basis, the average radio station was found to air 2.6 commercial breaks and an average of nearly 9 minutes advertising per hour, with the average spot break being roughly 3.5 minutes in duration.
Results Defy Expectations
There appears to be a considerable gap in the perception of the size of radio’s audience during commercial breaks and the study’s results: advertisers and advertising agency respondents to the survey believed the audience during commercial breaks to be 68% of the size of the audience before commercials begin, while radio broadcasters provided a higher estimate, believing the audience during spot breaks to be 78% of the size of the audience before the start of the break.
Elderly More Likely to Stay Tuned
Among teens and 18-24-year-olds, radio delivers 90% of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks, while among people age 65+, that proportion rises to 98%. The results show only a marginal difference between male and female audience delivery (93% and 92%, respectively).
Stations with spoken word formats delivered virtually the same audience during commercial breaks compared with the lead-in (99%), while stations with music formats fared slightly worse, at 88% of their lead-in audience. Although the high audience level for spoken word stations during commercial breaks was relatively consistent by demographic, the audience level for music stations during commercial breaks was somewhat lower among a younger demographic: whereas music stations delivered 85% of the lead-in audience among 18-34-year-olds, they delivered 93% among persons aged 65 and older.
According to Arbitron’s December 2011 RADAR report, in addition to adding 1.4 million weekly listeners in the past year, radio listening among key demographics continues to hold steady: compared to the December 2010 report, the 12-to-17-year-old audience remained consistent at 22.8 million, or 92% of that demographic’s population, while listeners aged 18-34 increased slightly to reach 66.3 million, or 93.4% of that demographic.
Music Audience Levels Highest for Country, Ethnic-Targeted Stations
Arbitron’s commercials study found that country stations delivered 89% of their lead-in audience during commercial breaks, ahead of rock-oriented stations (86%) and contemporary hit radio (83%), while both urban (93%) and Spanish (95%) music stations fared significantly better than the average. According to the December RADAR report, radio’s Hispanic audience aged 12 and older grew by nearly 1 million in the past year, to reach 95% of the demographic.
- Of the markets examined in the commercials report, the 3 with the highest percentage of lead-in audience during commercial breaks were Pittsburgh, New York, and Washington, with 95%, while the 3 with the lowest percentage were Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Sacramento, with 91%.
- Commercial break audience delivery was consistent throughout the year, staying between 93% and 94% of its lead-in audience during each month of the year.
- According to the RADAR report, radio demonstrates a significant ability to attract an affluent, educated audience: the medium reaches more than 132 million weekly radio listeners aged 12 and older with a household income of $75K or more. Additionally, 40.8 million adults aged 18 to 49 who are college graduates tune into radio on a weekly basis, while 26 million adults aged 25 to 54 with both a college degree and a household income of more than $75K tune into radio on a weekly basis.
About the Data: The Arbitron research covered 17,896,325 unique commercial breaks involving 61,902,473 minutes of advertising from October 2010 to September 2011 on 866 stations from all 48 Arbitron Portable People Meter markets.